MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - After nearly a month of trying to avoid it, Dana Holgorsen is finally to the point where he can't.
Every game West Virginia plays from here out is a must-win.
That wasn't always the case. It certainly wasn't the case when the Mountaineers got their third win of the season to go 3-2. And, no, it wasn't even the case after three straight losses dropped them to 3-5. There was always room for error.
That's no longer the case at 4-6 and with just two games to play. West Virginia needs wins over both Kansas and Iowa State in order to get to .500 and preserve a streak of 11 straight bowl invitations. The first of those must-win games is Saturday when the Mountaineers face Kansas (2-7, 0-6 Big 12) in Lawrence, Kan.
That's the bad news, of course. The good news? Even after everything that has gone wrong this season, the Mountaineers still have a chance.
"We need to understand that we're still playing for something,'' Holgorsen said. "It is at the point where I'm talking about bowl games. We've got to win the next two to go to a bowl game and that's something that for our 12 seniors, they deserve that.''
Holgorsen avoided using bowl eligibility as a motivational factor until now for what seems a pretty good reason, truth be told. In previous games a bowl wasn't actually on the line. In fact, given the separation between the top teams in the league and those nearer the bottom - including WVU - even a bowl destination wasn't really at issue.
The reality is that if WVU does qualify for a bowl it is likely to be a return trip to New York for the Pinstripe. It probably would have been the same even had the Mountaineers won another game and finished 7-5.
After last year's cold, snowy and ultimately humbling trip for a game at Yankee Stadium and a 38-14 loss to Syracuse, bowl eligibility doesn't actually seem that enticing. The truth is, though, that any bowl invitation is a good one on a variety of levels.
For starters, it means an extra few weeks of practice to get a head start on next season. Both Holgorsen and West Virginia have come to almost take that for granted. The Mountaineers have done it every year for the last 11 and Holgorsen for the last 13 at his various stops.